Issue 254 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published July 2001 Copyright © Socialist Review
So here we've got an adversary--we've got an enemy which is the whole corporate system. The objective of that corporate system, whether financial or industrial, is to be able to go where it wants, and produce what it wants, when it wants, for as long as it wants, to make as much money (obviously) as it can, and damn the costs. The goal is profit and anything that enhances that goal is good and anything that goes against that goal is bad.
If the enemy is transnational and is going for total control, then I think it's obvious that the response has also got to be transnational and it's got to be a mix of people. We don't want totalitarianism. That's not our goal. We want international democracy. But if we're to get it we've got to fight for each other. The threat is to all of us.
Since the protests in Seattle the thousands of people's movements confronting neoliberalism have begun to recognise each other's existence, even in some cases to offer each other support. If the world is not to be offered up for sale, we have to turn this developing mutual respect into a mass mobilisation, operating not for a few days once a year, but continuously, everywhere on earth. We must mobilise this enthusiasm, ensuring that no one ever fights alone again.
None of this will be easy. Ideological divisions will keep emerging, though it is my belief that, if we respect each other's positions without having to subscribe to them, the mobilisation itself will resolve many of our differences and even--through the collective genius that always emerges when people freely organise foment solutions upon which we can all agree.
It is time to use our creativity, our diversity, our authenticity as assets rather than liabilities. When that happens, the world will belong to its people once again.
CAROLYN EGAN and MICHELLE ROBIDOUX
The cycle of continuing poverty and exploitation that millions of women face worldwide is not going unchallenged.
According to Carmen Garcia of the Guatemalan Federation of Food and Allied Workers quoted in a trade union publication. 'No matter where we live in this hemisphere, we, as women trade unionists, understand that we are facing the same challenges. The only thing that keeps us apart is language and borders.'
Women are in the frontlines all over the world in the fight against multinationals. On the island of Bougainville in the South Pacific gold and copper were discovered, and Rio Tinto, one of the largest mining companies in the world, was allowed by the Papua New Guinea government to disregard the rights of indigenous people in its hunt for profits. Women were in the leadership of the fight against the company, forcing shutdowns of the mine and facing military repression.
We have seen in the US women janitors organising and winning union rights and better conditions in California. Korean women are active in labour struggles against restructuring and layoffs. Domestic workers are organising in the European Union. In Nicaragua there is a Working and Unemployed Women's movement mobilising. In the Philippines, Gabriela, a large coalition of women's groups, is organising street vendors in Manila. Every fight isn't being won, but there are inspiring victories.
The right of refugees to seek asylum is currently embodied in the 1951 United Nations Geneva Convention. But governments retain sole right to decide whether or not to grant it. Rates of acceptance of asylum claims in Europe declined from nearly half in 1984 to less than 10 percent in the 1990s. Some 76,000 people applied for asylum in Britain in 2000, mainly from Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, the former USSR, China and Turkey. The numbers claiming asylum are roughly similar to the numbers of EU citizens and patrials entering Britain to work.
The former British home secretary Jack Straw proposed that European governments should finance reception camps in countries neighbouring the refugees, from whom governments would select a favoured few for asylum in Europe. Under his proposals, the Geneva Convention would be revised so that any refugees who still attempted to exercise their right to enter Europe to apply for asylum could be 'promptly' returned to these camps.
If the representatives of global capital anticipated a free run, they were proved dramatically wrong on the very day that Nafta's launch was announced. In Chiapas, in southern Mexico, the armed occupation of the state capital, San Cristobal de las Casas, by the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacién Nacional (EZLN-Zapatista National Liberation Army), announced that there would be resistance to globalisation. Its first communication with the world, the First Declaration of the Lacandon Forest, announced the rising of the oppressed, and provided the anti-capitalist movement with a symbolic focus and a core slogan--Ya Basta!, 'Enough is enough'. The Zapatistas represented the joint struggle of over 30 indigenous communities of southern Mexico whose first declaration listed their repeated expulsion from communal lands as agribusiness relentlessly expanded its operations together with a history of ethnic and cultural oppression.
|Marks & Spencer workers protest in London against jobs cuts|
The question of socialist organisation presents itself in ways different from those dominant in the dark period of the 1980s and after. Socialists have to change: they must be more open to impulses from without, more discursive in style, more able to relate to a multitude of new issues and arguments. They need to learn new ways of uniting in agreed common action with people who agree with them on many things but not all. Socialist organisations need, of course to be inwardly democratic. Without internal debate and discussion they cannot develop a shared sense of the diversity of today's movements and the possibilities they open up, or draw on each other's experience in order to be able to argue and act more effectively. Some socialists brought up in the sectarian practices of the past will find the transition difficult. Others--those who will make a difference--will embrace the new possibilities with enthusiasm. Reshaping the left will sometimes be a hard task--but it is essential.
There's a crucial reason. We need both to celebrate and learn from the great movements of the past. May 1968 in France, for example, was one of the great inspirations of the previous generation, and rightly so. Yet there was a problem at its heart. The essentially conservative Communist Party was able to pull the plug on the largest general strike movement in European history. Why? Because the forces of the socialist left at that time were too small, too confused, and too weakly implanted in the factories and other workplaces to be able to challenge the Communist bureaucrats' control. May 68 was glorious, joyous, inspiring--and defeated. May 68 in France was but one example among many from the last great round of magnificent, but ultimately defeated, movements.
We are now living in the dawn of a new period which will witness such great movements and such great moments again. We should be better organised next time, to be able to offer practical alternatives to the conservatism of union bureaucrats, to aid the development of rank and file challenges, to infuse the radical spirit of the new movements into workers' movements and the power of workers' movements into the challenge to the system.
Building socialist organisation now is an essentially visionary process. Opportunity knocks mostly once or twice for each generation. The desire for a better world is spreading fast. The readiness to fight for it is spreading. The convulsive social battles to come will again pose the question, can we so mobilise all the popular forces of society to spring it in the air, and to begin a world that is, in manifold ways, more democratic, more just, more equal, more free?
The heart of the socialist case today is that the possibility beckons. To invite radical anti-capitalists and militant workers alike to become socialists is to invite them to take their own anger and resistance seriously, to think it through to the end, to recognise the possibilities buried in their neighbours and workmates for immense leaps of imagination and hope, and to work together to realise those potentials. It is the largest human project there is, to win back our world.
Anti-Capitalism is edited by Emma Bircham and John Charlton and published by Bookmarks Publications £10. It is available on special offer for £8 from Bookmarks phone 020 7637 1848 or visit www.bookmarks.uk.com